The statement “well if they [Black people] stop committing so much crime then [they wouldn’t get harassed or arrested soo much]” is ridiculous and ignorant, although I believe most Americans share that uninformed opinion. I know different for the following reasons:
1. There is a lack of correlation between crime and punishment. Although U.S. crime rates have been on par with other Western countries our rate of incarceration has skyrocketed (interesting since people were not committing more crime). For example, our crime rates in the 60’s were matching those of Germany and while our incarceration rate quadrupled in the 90’s, Germany’s remained stat quo. Our crime rates as of late are below the international norm; however, we have an incarceration rate 6-10 times greater than any other “developed” nation. What this means is that we have created and maintained a prison industrial complex. We have a system of laws, policies and enforcement created to disproportionately incarcerate a segment of the U.S. population (Black and latin@ people).
2. 40% of Black people incarcerated are there for non violent drug offenses. So is it that Black people sell and use wild crazy amounts of drugs, more so than White people? No. Though you may think so if you tune into any form of mainstream media, because they have been demonizing Black folks since slavery. All races use and sell drugs at similar rates. For example in 2000 the National Institute on Drug Abuse did a study that showed that white students where 8 times more likely to use crack than black students and 7 times more likely to use cocaine. So no drugs are not only a Black or brown problem.
3. Drug dealers aren’t just in the hood; they come in all shapes and sizes. Most White people buy from White dealers, yet there is a discrepancy in rates that Blacks and Whites are imprisoned.
In short it’s about who the police choose to stop and why; and what happens to that person once arrested and in the system. Are they told to plead guilty by their court appointed attorney, just because the odds are against them, innocence be damned. Black people especially poor and working class Black men are pushed into the prison industrial complex at disproportionate rates to their White counterparts who are committing the same kinds of crime at a greater rate! This is not only my academic conclusion but my personal experience having been stopped, questioned and stopped & frisked numerous times with no just or probable cause. Hope this was enlightening.
All the statistical information came from the research and citation of Michelle Alexander’s book “The New Jim Crow.” Alexander is a civil rights advocate and litigator and has worked with the A.C.L.U..
Here are some other interesting points in her book, just the tip of the iceberg:
*In her book, “The New Jim Crow,” Michelle Alexander states that the U.S. has a racial caste system that “stigmatizes a racial group and locks them into an inferior position by law and custom.” “The term mass incarceration refers not only to the criminal justice system but also to the larger web of laws, rules, policies and customs that control those labeled criminals in and out of prison. Once released, former prisoners enter a hidden underworld of legalized discrimination and permanent social exclusion. They are members of America’s new undercaste.”
**”The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its Black population than South Africa did at the height of Apartheid.”
If you’re really interested in this subject here is a link to the book!